To tell or not to tell?

Jan 29th 2010

As expectant parents, you have two big naming decisions. The first is the choice of name. The second is when to reveal it.

At one extreme you have parents who start referring to the fetus by name from the moment they see an ultrasound. Let's call them the "broadcasters." At the other, you have the parents who guard the name as a state secret, refusing to give their nearest and dearest so much as a clue: the "keepers."

Both of these extremes are on the rise. The broadcasters have gained momentum from early sex detection and the self-revelatory culture of the internet. As reader Jen wrote to me, "Facebook seems to be the main vehicle for this reveal: 'We had our 20 week ultrasound today, and Olivia Kate is on the way...,' 'We are on our way to the hospital to meet Matthew!'"

The keepers, meanwhile, have more and more to hide. Our modern culture of creative, distinctive names leads to a lot more wrinkled noses and outraged grandparents at name announcement time. The way keepers see it, if you know they'll complain and you know you won't change your mind, why have the argument? Just present them with an adorable newborn baby, the name a fait accompli.

As usual, extremes carry risks. For the keepers, if you suspect that your friends and family will all hate your child's name, shouldn't that set off alarm bells? Bouncing ideas off people can also help you avoid unwelcome surprises. I've heard from "keeper" parents who learned too late that, say, Amelia was the name of Grandpa's first wife whom nobody ever talks about.

Broadcasters risk locking themselves into premature decisions. Their public pre-announcements can also seem like tempting fate. The sad truth is that things can go wrong with pregnancies, and an early name broadcast to 1,000 Facebook friends can add an extra layer of complication to an already painful time. Even if all goes well, you've stolen the thunder from your birth announcement. If everybody already knows the ultrasound sex reading, the date of your scheduled c-section, and the name, what's left to announce?

Luckily, there's plenty of middle ground. For instance, you can choose a trusted circle to bounce your ideas off of. Ideally the group should include at least one parent of young kids who knows the name landscape, and one person who knows your family well enough to help you navigate around the "Grandma Amelia" problems. If you keep the circle small, you preserve some secrecy and get the extra bonus of flattering the people you've taken into your confidence.

If you're a broadcaster at heart, you can hold back a bit by sharing a list of finalists rather than a champion. (You may have already chosen the winner, but nobody has to know that.) Presenting a candidate list can also generate excitement about the name choice. After all, you can't root for a team without knowing who's playing.

Personally, I like the idea of combining both approaches. If you share a small group of names with a small group of confidantes you gather feedback, retain some air of mystery, and get the full oomph of the birth announcement.

How about you?


By Qwen (nli) (not verified)
February 3, 2010 6:25 PM

@Eleni – That’s interesting! I would actually be interested to hear more abut why they chose the name because it means "The Way" or more philosophically it represents the true nature of the universe (though supposedly pre-dating the universe). Which seems like an odd concept to love so much you name your child after it. Though I guess it’s not any weirder than Genesis or Serenity when you think about it…

And you’re right about them mispronouncing it. It’s pronounced daU (it’s another one of those words with one and a half syllables). But to many US ears it sounds like dow (as in the Dow Jones). I know because I when I studied it my mom thought I was taking economics courses. :).

What's funny is for me, the word is pretty on paper but even with the mispronounciation, it doesn't SOUND that fabulous.

February 3, 2010 7:08 PM

A fancy club/restaurant in Las Vegas uses the name Eleni is referring to. My son took me there (during restaurant, not club, hours) for Mother's Day one year. When I pronounced the name of the place more or less correctly with the d- sound, the staff looked at me as if I were crazy. The establishment uses the t- pronunciation. We could also talk about whether that is an appropriate name for a hot Vegas club in the first place.

FWIW Dashiell is a French surname properly pronounced with the accent on the second syllable. I know a couple of fellow English professors who have used that name for their sons and pronounce it with the accent on the first syllable, shifting from the romance stress rule to the Germanic stress rule. Go figure.

February 3, 2010 8:41 PM

emilyrae-re new office baby isl@ marguerite..I just don't hear the right flow with that name. I don't care for it. As far as the "oo" names, do you also like Susan and Oona/Una?

Anne with an E-I think Vaughn is a wonderful name for ondine. I second it!

PJ-Isn't Shavonne (Sha-vaughn)? I get that they are not the generally accepted Irish spelling of the name but I have seen this one quite a time or two.

Eleni-Before I knew the "correct" pronunciation of that book I too said a word rhyming with COW only spelled with a T. I liked the book but that was years ago. I am unfamiliar with the culture outside of the bits and pieces I recall from the book and schooling. I am not sure I would have chosen this name either for the meaning or the sound. It does seem to be something that would disappoint an NE especially one who slaved over a big baby name book to provide other ideas. However, it begs the question, how many Non-NE's slave over baby name boards, internet dictionaries of names, books and other methods before naming their children? If there was an oversight in that they did not consult anything (i.e. they had no clue about that religion) then aren't they to be forgiven? If they did it knowingly, then yes, I would feel the intent to be a bit of a cultural misappropriation as we've been describing.
*Update:I just also thought of Lake Taos and the area around it. Any chance that had anything to do with her decision?

February 3, 2010 8:19 PM

To clarify, I didn't think it especially *wrong,* just . . . kind of silly? They are not very invested in (or even interested in) the spiritual or philosophical meaning of the name. That meaning is merely their reference.

To be fair, part of their choice is purely based on sound. They like the sound with the hard "T."
But I got the impression that the name sounded exotic, modern and vaguely "enlightened" to them (not unlike "Zen," which also gets used I guess). That they pronounce it with a hard "T" (assuming that most people wouldn't know the pronunciation, anyway) only added to the impression that the origin did not matter that much.

February 3, 2010 8:20 PM

susan still sounds a bit dated to me (though judy doesn't, which is odd), i like the sue sound though, but i confess that the more modern forms appeal to me more: susana, suzette, and i really like sukey. i do like oona/una, though i prefer the "oo" sound with a consonant in front of it. for example, i quite like luna, much more than una. i just find it interesting because it draws me to names that aren't generally my style. for example, while i don't particularly DISlike the group of boys' names that are surnames ending in "er" (parker, carter, tanner, spencer), i just don't gravitate towards them. but when i hear the name cooper, i think, "oooh...cooper's kind of cool." i still wouldn't choose it, but it stands out to me among all the other tradesman surnames. same with judy and jupiter. i generally don't like names from the era of judy or names as "out there" as jupiter. but i'm really drawn to them anyway.

isl@ marguerite sounds fine to me, though i wouldn't choose it. i just thought it was nice because it seemed a little different. it wasn't what i expected from her.

February 3, 2010 8:47 PM

emilyrae-That's interesting. I LOVE the name Spencer. I think it's one of those secret names I love but would not actually give to a real child. Also, my dd knows a Cooper. He fits his name so well. It gets shortened to Coop alot which is nms but it's still kind of cute on him. I'm not sure what sound is my favorite but I do like the AIR sound as in Eric, Erin, and Claire.

February 3, 2010 10:09 PM

oh, yes, i like spencer too. out of that general catagory of tradesman surnames, it's one of the best (much more appealing to me than foster and tanner, for example). this catagory of names may not be the ones i LOVE, but i definitely do see the appeal and i do like them. i feel like spencer straddles cool and smart.

i like the "AIR" sound too. it's pretty, but not flashy.

February 3, 2010 10:33 PM

I don't generally like names ending in "er" either, but I have a bit of a soft spot for Archer. I think it's b/c I love Archie so much.

By Mirnada (not verified)
February 3, 2010 10:34 PM


I really like Leo, and I personally don't think it has to be a nickname for a longer given name (so few boys ever want to use their full name, anyway, even when it's a shorter name like David or Matthew). I like Leo better than Theo, which crazily still makes me think of the teenaged son on the Cosby Show (weird). The Lion association should make your husband happy, too, right? If it didn't rhyme in a sing song way with my dh's name, we'd definitely have Leo on our list. The Tolstoy association isn't so shabby, either. I really don't think the astrology connection is an issue at all. Even if someone made the connection, it'd just be a brief moment of recognition, and I seriously doubt any of his peers would be paying attention to that.


I hope this isn't annoying, but do you mind reposting your full list? This post has just exploded and I've lost track of all the original names.


I'm sorry, but I'm really having a tough time with the couple who named their baby that three letter T*O name with the incorrect pronunciation. You guys have all been great about being understanding and openminded. It just feels like ignorant cultural appropriation to me, and that child now has a name that's sadly driven by trendy pseudo spiritualism. Ok, I'm done with my rant.

Who was it who posted awhile back about a friend who was going to name their baby a mystery "O" name? Have we found out what name that is yet? Did I miss that?

February 3, 2010 10:42 PM

oh, i actually like lots of names ending in "er" (oliver, jasper, casper, oscar), but i guess it's the ones that have a surname vibe that aren't particularly my style. archer is nice though, and a much better way to archie (in my opinion) than archibald.

and, just in case, i wanted to note that when i say "not my style," it's not code for "i hate this." it usually means "i like it well enough, but not enough choose it."

By Anna S (not verified)
February 3, 2010 11:13 PM


About T*o and "It just feels like ignorant cultural appropriation to me". Do you really feel this way, that it is ignorant when the parents made a deliberate decision to keep the original romanised spelling and anglicise the pronunciation? Or is it because you think non-Taoists shouldn't be using the name in the first place?

February 3, 2010 11:44 PM

emilyrae + daisy_kay: (Sounds like a too matchy sibset LOL) I generally DO like -er names but not so much the ones that seem upfront to be surnamey or nouns. I like:
Tanner (yes this one breaks the rule)
Parker (on the fence with this one)

Do not like:
Actually typing all those out, and obviously there are more -er names, but I noticed that I rather like the -ner names and not the others.

February 4, 2010 12:04 AM

Lilliputian: All of a sudden I thought of Shannon for you. It that too plain, Irish enough, too common? Thoughts?

Ondine: Nymbler helped me come up with these ideas for you-
Nicholas nn Nico
Chandler (except I think of Friends)

February 4, 2010 12:05 AM

I tend to like names with the "eye" sound, like Levi, Isaac, Elias, Piper, Isla, Iris, etc. The sound seems very fresh and bright to me.

On the T*o name...what about a non-religious or non-Christian family that names their child Christian? Would that be bad? odd? disrespectful? Or a child named Jew? I never know. I guess those examples are a bit different, in that Christian is a well-used name and the Jew example is a bit far-fetched... but just another side to the conversation.

February 4, 2010 12:09 AM

ah, zoerhenne, it's impossible for me to imagine someone who doesn't like the name oliver, so i'm forced to assume that you must be joking. just kidding. sort of. :]

thinking about this, i'm realizing there are really very few names i truly dislike. there are names i love and names i like and names i am ambivalent towards, but not very many that i really DON'T like.

ha! yes, emily rae and daisy kay would be rather matchy. that's hilarious.

February 4, 2010 12:17 AM

i like the "eye" sound too! i think i just like strong vowels, maybe...?

and i was also going to bring up the christian thing too, in connection with the t*o conversation. speaking as a christian, it would not offend me if a non-christian used that name, though it would surprise me, i guess because i assume a non-christian wouldn't want such an explicit association? but apparently they don't mind, as it's a fairly popular name, and i doubt it is only christian families using it.

February 4, 2010 12:20 AM

My 8 year old and I were listening to a children's history of the presidents and he was so surprised to learn of a President named Madison - for him that's a girls name. There are 3 in his 2nd grade class of 22 kids. (Plus a Madeline who also goes by Maddie)

February 4, 2010 12:36 AM

@the PP who mentioned "Eveline:"

I am of French background and this name has been on my lists because it was my ggrandmother's name. IMO it is the French spelling of Evelyn.
I really really dislike the use of the letter "y" in names for some reason, it just rubs me the wrong way. So if I used this name for a future child I would pronounce it the same as Evelyn in English, Ev-leen in French. I've actually been pretty much decided on this as a MN if we have another girl because my two daughters both have E MNs (Claire Elise and Sophie Elinor) and French spellings. the pronunciation isn't a huge deal for me in a MN, but I just always saw it as the same name as Evelyn. Was I wrong about this?

February 4, 2010 12:43 AM

Apropos of the issue of appropriate/inappropriate names, I was watching American Idol tonight, and one of the contestants was a very young girl who couldn't sing a lick. And her name was Shaddaii. My teeth almost fell out of my mouth. Shaddai(El Shaddai) is one of the names of G-d, specifically the name by which G-d is known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The mother of this girl was interviewed, and she said that when her daughter was born, she had a vision from G-d that this girl would be a singer--which she clearly isn't. So did this woman have what is IMO the incredible chutzpah to give her daughter G-d's name, or was she ignorant of the name's meaning or even existence, just "making it up" because she liked the sound? I have no idea.

Re Christian: Frankly I can't imagine a Jew or a Muslim naming a son Christian. Even during WWII when Jews were camouflaging themselves in various ways to avoid the Nazis, and babies were given the most non-Jewish names their parents could think of (e.g., Anthony, Patrick), I don't know of any who used Christian. During the Middle Ages male Jews who converted to Christianity were often given the baptismal name Christian. For this reason there are scholars who think Chretien de Troyes was a convert (but who knows). That in itself is a reason for Jews to avoid the name, although I don't think any Jew would consider it under any circumstances. I can, however, imagine parents who are absolutely areligious using Christian simply because they liked it, although I personally have not run across this.

February 4, 2010 1:02 AM

Miriam-I caught that girls name too. Although I didn't associate it with religion (you are so much more knowledgable in that area) I did
think it rather made-up/strange/misspelled/etc. Off topic, I thought Leo and Aaron did sing well :)

And regarding Christian, I like the sound of it as a middle name for my fantasy child-Spencer Christian.

emilyrae-I like the name Oliver for others. I don't care for it otherwise. In a sibset it goes very well with many names (I suggested it for ondine above). However, being a child of the 70's I will always think of the cousin on Brady Bunch with his blond hair and glasses. He looked like a young John Denver-but was portrayed as a bit clumsy.

February 4, 2010 1:07 AM


oh, haha, yes, cousin oliver isn't the best oliver ever, perhaps.

and spencer christian sounds pretty dashing to me. :]

February 4, 2010 2:13 AM

zoerhenne- Spencer Christian is rather dashing! It reminds me of Fletcher Christian- the mutineer made famous in "Mutiny on the Bounty" who landed on Pitcairn Island. Interesting piece of history.

Personally, I'm always surprised when people assume a guy named Christian must be from a Christian family, probably because in Europe it's been used quite widely for a long time. Think of Christian Dior, or Christian Slater, or even Hans Christian Andersen or all those Danish kings. I've always loved it as a name, quite apart from its meaning.

February 4, 2010 2:50 AM

Even though I know I could never use the name I have a guilty pleasure when it comes to the name Christopher. I just really like the sound of it. Also, re Miriam, I've never known anyone jewish to use Christian, but i do know a jewish woman named Kristen which, yes is not Christian, but is mighty close to it and has the same meaning/derivation. she's not particularly religious nor were her parents but i still see Kristen as a name that directly links to Christian.

By sarah smile (not verified)
February 4, 2010 2:51 AM

I also think that Christian is pretty well established as a name, such that I don't identify it that strongly with the religion. It would sound a bit odd to me on a non-religious kid, and I certainly wouldn't consider using it myself, but I'm not sure it's that far off from Christopher, Kristen, Christine, etc. All those names are common even in non-religious families, so I'm not surprised that Christian has followed.

Miriam, wasn't there a discussion here at one point about a little boy named Adonai? I see how Shaddai is worse in theory, since it is more of a name than a title, but they both seem hugely inappropriate to me. Plus Adonai is more familiar since it is used in most prayers. But then again I don't like it when kids are named Queen, Prince, etc either, so perhaps I am not the best judge of such things.

To be fair, I think there is a reasonable chance in both cases that the names were made up by those parents totally independent of the Hebrew meaning. But c'mon, people, Google is your friend...

By Lilliputian (not verified)
February 4, 2010 2:53 AM

Any idea why my comments keep getting withheld in a "queue for site administrator approval"? I'm starting to get a bit paranoid!

I'm trying yet again, more abbreviated this time...

Theo and Milo are boys' names that have come up several times in this thread, and I was both fascinated and amused to see a recent SF Chronicle baby name blog post on their rising popularity--and close association!

(Maybe a link is causing trouble?) Try Googling sfgate "meeting other kids with the same baby name"

Two unrelated families we know recently had baby boys born within a week of one another, on opposite coasts, a Milo and a Theo. My husband and I keep mixing up the names something awful!

Regional naming trends are amazing. (Hence, my canvassing this board for input on the name Maud.)

By the way, I noticed Pippa was the only name option I gave earlier that got no response, positive or negative (although Philippa has come up quite a bit). Anyone want to weigh in on that one?

February 4, 2010 3:27 AM

I think I'm more of a broadcaster. Everyone has been asking me what the name will be (even relative strangers, like random people at work) and I haven't exactly been hiding it if they ask! We're coming into the home stretch, due in a month. I posted here a few months ago for advice. Then I asked our 2 year old daughter to pick between my favorite (Henry) and my husband's favorite (Nathaniel) and she said the baby's name was "Afaniel" and has been talking to my belly and calling him that ever since. So cute! So we're kind of attached to the name now since she picked it. Have been getting favorable comments from people I've revealed it to so far. I do say "We're probably going to go with..." just to leave a little wiggle room but I'm pretty sure that's what it will be as we don't have a backup name that my husband likes (he wasn't a fan of Henry).

And we're probably going to go with H0l0kai for the middle name, which means "seafarer" in Hawaiian. I like this because my daughter's middle name is Kail@ni, so they would share part of their middle name. I haven't told anyone else about the middle name yet though.

I have a few niggling concerns though, what do you think--big deal or not?
1. Not big on nicknames. I much prefer Nathaniel. I hate Nathan. Nate is OK but is "Nate Le3" too close to my name (Natalie L3e)? Any other potential nicknames for Nathaniel that I might like better? What is the chance of him actually being called Nathaniel by other people rather than Nate? (I assume when he's little he'll have trouble spelling his whole name so he'll probably have to go by Nate in preschool?)
2. H0l0kai on Google--mostly brings up names of sailboats, a now defunct restaurant, and a last name for several Hawaiian people. Fine. But a website "Urban Dictionary" has two listings that say it is slang for "vomit, regurgitate, hurl" (I guess because of seasickness?) Does this matter? I should mention, technically our daughter's name Am3lia is also the name of a congenital deformity meaning "absence of limbs", but that didn't stop us from using it.

It was so hard to come up with something we could both agree on. And I think we have good reasons for going with the names we picked. I just want to be done obsessing about THE NAME and hopefully this will work.

February 4, 2010 3:44 AM

Thanks for all your suggestions! Two of the most strongly made recommendations were actually the names of a family member and a pet, which I guess means we're on the right track.

I realized it's not the nickname aspect of Theo that bothers me; it's that "theo" in Latin is a prefix, not a freestanding word. The name Leo doesn't bother me at all, because even though it's a nickname it's also a legitimate noun, so it doesn't feel incomplete. Stupid Latin education, interfering with my name preferences.

Theodore is growing on me, but hubby still hates it. What do you folks think? Is it adorably retro or irretrievably stuffy? Does anyone else hear it and just think "chipmunk"?

February 4, 2010 3:50 AM

zoerhenne: regarding Asia vs. April, I think another thing that is coming up is the issue of whether parents owe an explanation or must have a reason for the name they choose. I think this is another issue. I think I'm going to stand by my argument that Asia can have consequences that April won't.

sarahsmile: points definitely taken about gray areas and "positive" stereotypes.

EVie: i tend to see names like Dakota in the same light as Asia. i do see your point about people of various backgrounds having connections to these places and maybe wanting to name their children after them for that reason, but... i still say that they are perpetuating stereotypes of Native Americans by using this name to invoke this outdoorsy, frontier attitude.

Bue: I did not know that India is an old name in England and the South. (I assume you mean southern U.S.) I think the first place I heard this name was with India Arie. Do you know the story behind the older usage? Is it related to India the country?

i also want to say that i am enjoying this conversation so much! i stayed off the blog all day at work so that i could devote my full attention to it at night!

also wanted to say that a lot of where i'm coming from is influenced by my reading of Pierre Bourdieu. It's an excerpt from Language and Symbolic Power although I can't remember where exactly. sorry, i can look it up if anyone is actually interested in looking at it. lol.

ondine: i know a zoe with a brother named henry. parents were also considering alexander. or what about sebastian with the nn seb?

goldenpig: i'm not so creative; the only thing i can come up with is nat, which probably doesn't help the Natalie problem.

February 4, 2010 4:45 AM

RobynT: Alexander is probably the boys' name my husband and I like most. I'm worried it's VERY common though. I don't need a unique name for my kid, but I don't want him to have to be "Alex K" in all his classes. Maybe I'm too worried about that.

February 4, 2010 4:56 AM

ondine, I love Theodore--it's my husband's name :)
But aside from that, it's got that traditional antique charm, but not too popular, vibe. So I vote for "adorably retro". DH goes by Ted but I think Theo is the more "hip" nn. I don't think the chipmunk reference is too strong (although it did knock Simon off our potential name list). However, if your husband HATES it, it's probably not gonna make the final cut. I had the same problem with Henry (and a lot of other names I loved).

By Anna S (not verified)
February 4, 2010 7:16 AM

RobynT, about Asia - would you automatically assume Asia would be for the continent rather than Greek? (I'm not in the US so I don't know).

About not-necessarily-Christian Christians: I wouldn't be surprised if there are lots of those in Scandinavia. The Scandinavian word for Christian in the religious sense is /kristen/ while the name Christian/Kristian doesn't have a plain meaning. I suppose lots of people, perhaps of lower education, just don't make the connection.

By Bue
February 4, 2010 7:20 AM

Lilliputian - Pippa is wonderful! It's so sprightly. I know two - a 60ish English woman (short for Philippa) and a 3yo Canadian girl (just Pippa).

goldenpig - What about Nathaniel nn Nat? Too close to your own name?

ondine - To some Theodore might still be a bit fusty, but it will emerge from that, I think. However, I don't mind Theo as a name on its own. For Alexander,if you don't want him to be Alex K what about Alec or Xander?

RobynT - India has long been a stylish, upper crust name in England - the designer India Hicks comes to mind. And India Wilkes is the sister of Ashley in Gone with the Wind. The name started off in the late 19th century because of British imperialism - probably people went off to serve under the Raj, then decided to get a bit fanciful and name their daughters after the place.

By Amy3
February 4, 2010 11:13 AM

@Lilliputian, I think Pippa is great; I just like Maud more. Either would be a lovely choice. Pippa would certainly fit in better with the ends-in-A trend for girls' names.

@goldenpig, I don't know about other places, but in my daughter's preschool the kids, while called by whatever nn they used, were actually required to learn to write their full names. So my daughter's friend Ella was always Elinor for "assignments." I think given the popularity of calling kids by full names, you could probably use Nathaniel easily. You'd just have to be prepared for him or his friends to come up with a nn once he's older.

February 4, 2010 10:42 AM

Glad you all like Spencer Christian :)

goldenpig-Welcome back! I actually prefer the more formal sounding Nathaniel over Nathan or Nate. I don't think you will have problems with people using the longer name as it seems to be trending that way in my area. Schools will do what you say for the most part. My dd has 2 Abigail's in her class so 1 is Abigail and 1 is Abby. I can't think of another nn for Nathaniel though. Maybe while he's growing up a trait nn will arise.

Lilliputian- Pippa is one of those names I just don't care for. I'm not a big fan of P names though so take that FWIW.

ondine-Love Alexander however. For PA the numbers are this,
3 in our school (1 Xander/1 Alex/1 Alexander)
despite it being in the #12-16 range 5-6 years ago. It is #9 for PA in 2008. Hospital list for last year shows
9 Alexander/1 Alex/0 Xander/
3 Zander out of 941 total) So 13 kids in a large city may not seem that bad but it is as popular as Olivia(#2 PA 2008), Ava(#1 PA 2008), Andrew(#12 PA 2008), Isabella(#5 PA 2008), Michael(#1 PA 2008), and Owen(#39 PA 2008) was for births last year. Theodore on the other hand is not a name I come across very often. Except my cousin just adopted and named the baby Theodore James nn TJ. I think alot of them get nn'd. Theo is better than Teddy to me.

February 4, 2010 11:01 AM

i don't expect little boys named christian to be from christian families; i know better than that. i'm just surprised that this is the case. i mean i would probably not name my son "buddhist." i know that's completely different because it's not a name (to my knowledge), but as a christian, that's just what that word MEANS to me, so it's interesting to me that a non-religious person doesn't find that meaning inherent in the name.

lilliputian: pippa is adorable! i can't think of many friendlier names.

goldenpig: i think nathaniel could go by his full name fairly easily. oh, and i wouldn't worry about h0l0kai...i have never heard that before...

ondine: theodore used to sound stuffy to me, but it has grown on me a lot. i'm going with adorably retro. besides: if he mostly goes by theo, it won't matter much, will it? the only chipmunk name that gives me a chipmunk vibe is alvin. simon and theodore are just names to me (unless the three of them were siblings, at which point, i might raise an eyebrow).

re: dakota vs. asia for what it's worth, the name dakota does not make me think of native americans, but that's just me. it makes me think of the west, certainly, but not native americans. unless you're claiming that native americans are inherent in the whole idea of the west.

anna, to me asia is the continent, and nothing to do with greek (just speaking as a north american), but others here might feel differently.

February 4, 2010 11:09 AM

Theodore didn't make me think of chipmunks until hubby suggested Simon. :-)

Also, hubby wishes to clarify that he doesn't find my British names effete; he finds them pretentious (which is why Simon is OK!).

I came up with a more comprehensive list of my favorite boys' names, since I think the few examples I gave earlier weren't perhaps that representative of my style. If anyone has suggestions of similar style names that my husband might find less pretentious (or just "oh god no" reactions to these names) I'd love to hear them:

Adrian, Alexander, Beckett, Damien, Darien, Dominic, Elijah, Gabriel, Garrett, Lief, Malachi, Mattheus/Matthias, Micah, Pascal, Rowan, Seamus, Theo(dore), Tobias, Tristan, Troy

By Amy3
February 4, 2010 11:12 AM

@ondine, what about Malcolm? That doesn't read as pretentious to me, sounds similar to Malachi, and feels like it fits with your style.

By Chrispy (not verified)
February 4, 2010 11:24 AM

I am a broadcaster by nature but try not to let slip until the 3rd trimester or, at least, month 5. Usually it would be, "we're considering these names". With our first, we didn't find out the sex so it was a surprise anyway. I have a cousin who told only her sister and mother the name they had chosen. She is now pregnant again & I am having a fun time trying to figure out what name they will choose this time. Want to guess too? They have a daughter Sh@nn0n El@ine (Elaine after her deceased grandmother). They are expecting a son. My guess is that they may go with George as a middle name after his deceased grandfather. The only requirement they have ever copped to is that it can't be a name currently in use in our family - they don't care about popularity, etc. The last name is 3 syllables and starts with F. She is due in May.

February 4, 2010 11:34 AM

goldenpig--I wouldn't worry about the urban dictionary citation of H0l0kai, it's a user-contributed site that doesn't necessarily bear any resemblance to slang that is regularly used. While I'm not up-to-date on my Hawaiian slang, a search of other, more common names on the urban dictionary site should reassure you as to the validity of their definitions. In fact, this is a facebook meme that seems to be going around right now--search your name on urban dictionary and post the result, and people are posting the most outlandish, silliest results they could find--things that are quite obviously not a genuine widespread connotation for the names being looked up.

By Beth the original (not verified)
February 4, 2010 12:07 PM

Whoah, what an amazing amount of comments! I really enjoyed them. Again, I'll take the rogue position (no, I'm not Sarah Palin)that a kid's name really *should* have something to do with a larger social unit -- family names and culturally appropriate names give the child a context, and I think that's important. I personally am not wild about the context of pop culture for a child's name, because pop culture moves much faster than family lineage or ethnic/national culture. And I see the striving for a unique name as akin to the search for a brand name...too, um, tied up with ideas about individualism and "standing out" or "getting ahead" for my tastes. So that leaves me having to say that I would not choose a name for my own kid that wasn't Anglo-American. Which sounds oddly racist or xenophobic, but I guess I think it's good to know what your culture actually *is* as opposed to pretending you don't have one.

I've been dying to respond to Kerry's invitation to actually criticize some names! So here are my favorites from her list, and some I see as less desirable,with reasons given:

LOVE: Frances, Jane, Julia, Kate, Margot, Miriam, Thora, Theodora, Willa, Edward, Ellis, Samuel

Grania/Grainne: inevitably she will be called Granny in the schoolyard
Salomé: Oh dear. Images of naked dancers. Just way too sexual for a child.
Ellen, Lenore, Moira, Nancy: still sound middle-aged to me
Innes: Too many teasing possibilities (innies and outies being the most innocent)
Galen: a girl's name in many quarters, which might or might not be a problem
Lucien: lovely, but he's going to be called "Lucy"
Thatcher: We're not far enough away from Margaret Thatcher; to me it's like naming a kid "Reagan." But that could be good if you are a conservative!

The other names I like but would not personally choose.

By Sharalyn (not verified)
February 4, 2010 12:08 PM

Ok, I miss a couple of days, and yikes!

@emilyrae -- You're so right! I haven't watched the movie in 18 years. Apparently, I need to get it out and watch it again!

@ondine -- One of the reasons we chose Alexander for our son was the fact that there are *so* many nn to choose from. That's wasn't our primary reason, but it was part of the decision making process.

While in first grade, he was Alex S., that was because he was still finding his voice and was too shy to tell them he wasn't really Alex at all. He didn't want me to tell them either. Second grade, he spoke up and there was an Alex and a Xander in the class. The kids were very adaptable. This year, he wants to go by Alexander, so there is an Alex and an Alexander.

He decides what he wants to be called where. In soccer, he's Xander. In karate, he's Alexander (more formal feel). Yet in basketball, he's Alex because he's only called Alex by his Papa (my Dad) and Papa takes him to basketball. In Kindergarten, he was even called Al (not my favorite, but oh well, he chose).

To his Dad and I, he's Xander most of the time, occasionally Alexander. And looking at his friends, usually adults call him Xander while the kids call him Alexander. Go figure. There's always Alec, Sandy, Sasha, Lex, Axel, etc...

February 4, 2010 12:19 PM

zoerhenne, when you said your cousin adopted a baby and named him Theodore James (nn TJ) for some reason the name sounded so familiar and then i remembered that my sons have this interactive toy called TJ Bearytales that talks and one of his lines is "hi my name is Theodore James Bearytales, but you can call me TJ"! FWIW i think its a great name! It's always interesting to see how companies promote their toys with certain names to create a specific appeal- to me Theodore James is very sophisticated and almost aristocratic sounding, while TJ lightens the name and makes it more boyish.

By EVie
February 4, 2010 12:55 PM

RobynT - I actually agree with you on Dakota, etc. I don't object to Native American names being used for place names - in fact, I think it is appropriate that the lands keep the names originally given to them - but now the names have become so widely associated with the places that people have forgotten where they originally came from. To then use the place names for children with only the place as the point of reference just removes the names even farther from their origin, and I think that is very sad.

Anna S - I highly doubt that most Americans know anything about Asia the Greek - unless the parents are classics professors, it's a safe bet that the name is for the continent. I have to admit, I was an ancient history major in college, and I couldn't have told you who she was off the top of my head. From what I can tell she was a pretty minor figure anyway.

re: Christian - this is a really interesting topic for me. There is no religion in our household - I grew up without any, though if you go back a few generations my family was Catholic/Lutheran - and my husband is an apostate Jew. Both of us feel uncomfortable using Christian or any other name that starts with Christ-. I don't mind using other names with a religious connection, mainly because if I rejected both the Old and New Testaments plus all saints' names there would be pretty much nothing left. But the Christ- names are just a bit too explicit for me (though if I were Christian, I would be all over Christabel - I've always thought it was beautiful, it's underused, and it has that great 19th-century feel to it - any thoughts as to why it doesn't get more use?)

February 4, 2010 1:07 PM

see, your feelings on the name christian are what i would expect from someone who wasn't a christian (not to put you in a box or something--i mean obviously i'm quite wrong in most cases, just from other comments made on this post and from the popularity of the name christian in general). it's how i imagine i would feel if it wasn't my religion.

February 4, 2010 1:52 PM

There's a little Phillipa in my daughter's kindergarten class, who goes by Pip. I think it's just the cutest name ever.

February 4, 2010 1:54 PM

Re: naming a daughter T@o. It seems like the problem to me is that the parents presented the name as "Aren't we cool for picking such a cool name?" That might not (and hopefully isn't) the real reason they chose such an original name, but that's the impression you gave, Eleni. It reminds me of the discussion we had years ago of a couple who named their daughter Murg@troyd and seemed to relish all the weird looks they got about her name. So in my mind, it's not the name that is offensive or off-putting, it's the way the parents chose to announce the name. Names should really be about the child and the family, not about making the parents look cool. Of course names DO say a lot about the parents, which is why they're always so contested on this blog and others. (Does choosing the name Rainbow make me look too hippie? If my child is named Nigel, will people think I'm really buttoned-down?)

February 4, 2010 1:54 PM

Becky-Thanks for the info. TJ is actually named after family members.

Chrispy-Sh@nn0n El@in3 is beautiful. I can't even begin to predict what their boy name with be though because it seems to "go with" many different styles. Are they planning to stay with Irish/Celtic feel? Do they want to stay away from another -en ending?

Asia to me is the continent. However, Diana I am aware is a goddess name.

ondine-Adrian, Alexander, Beckett, Damien, Darien, Dominic, Elijah, Gabriel, Garrett, Lief, Malachi, Mattheus/Matthias, Micah, Pascal, Rowan, Seamus, Theo(dore), Tobias, Tristan, Troy

I do think that a few of them could appear to sound pretentious (Beckett, Tristan). Elijah + Gabriel sounds too biblical to me. Malachi + Seamus too Irish. Dominic + Pascal too Italian. You have such a mix there too me. Other ideas for hubby though:
Trevor; Quinn; Aaron
Asher; Lucas; Silas
Finn; Daniel; Julian
Adam; Jasper; Tobin
Evan; Anthony; Blake
Ross; Pierce; Dylan
Some of these I mentioned before but with all the posting you may have missed them.

February 4, 2010 2:18 PM

ondine- i also like Jasper, Julian, Pierce and Tobin for you. I'm sure people have mentioned most of these, but you might also like Ewan, Liam (maybe as a nn for William?), Eamon, Oliver, Finn, Miles, or Declan. I realize some of these are less british (Declan, Liam, Eamon) but based off of your list I think they work and are less pretentious.

February 4, 2010 2:41 PM

goldenpig: Am I understading you correctly that Le3 is your last name? If so, not to rain on your parade but I wouldn't use Nathaniel. It's a really great name, but the teasing potential for Nat Le3 is pretty big.

February 4, 2010 3:39 PM

ondine: not sure if using Xander as a nn would help...

Anna S: yes i would definitely assume an Asia was named after the continent rather than the goddess. i'm totally overeducated (not in the classics, but we do read some Greeks) and, you know, i feel like i may have heard about the continent being named after a goddess at some point, but it's definitely not something i would immediately think of. i think most people wouldn't. and even if naming after the goddess, i think intention isn't everything. no matter the intention, the vast majority of people will see the name as coming from the continent. (oh wow, here is where we get into theories of whether it's the writer or the reader that determines the meaning!)